Lawmakers push to revise laws for medical marijuana industry
By Paul Monies
Home delivery of medical marijuana, a shorter dispensary setback from schools and making the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority its own agency are among the proposals that survived last week’s first legislative deadline.
But a bill banning billboards with medical marijuana advertising failed to make it through committee. The next major deadline is March 12, when bills have to pass their chamber of origin.
The bills reflect how the Legislature continues trying to calibrate regulations for an industry that came to life in late 2018 and has spread rapidly across the state. Medical marijuana sales exceeded $345 million in 2019, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
Here are some bills that could be voted on in the House or Senate floor over the next week:
House Bill 3228, by Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, is a package of changes requested by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. The 104-page bill includes some provisions, like a shorter dispensary setback, that are included in other stand-alone bills. The bill also allows the authority to charge a late fee for license renewals more than 30 days late and gives the agency it up to 90 days to review business license applications. The bill also allows patients to withdraw their caregiver’s license immediately and puts additional record-keeping requirements on medical marijuana businesses.
HB 3227, the so-called “Uber” bill, also by Echols, would allow home delivery of medical marijuana. Licensed dispensaries could contract with licensed medical marijuana transporters to deliver cannabis to patients and caregivers. Only one delivery per day to a private home would be allowed under the law. It also reduces the annual fee for the transport license to $25 from $100.
Dispensaries would have to be at least 300 feet from a place of worship under HB 2779 by Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland. The original version had the setback at 1,000 feet, but it was amended in committee to make it consistent with the setbacks from retail liquor stores. Dispensaries in operation before the law takes effect would be grandfathered from the place-of-worship setback. Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1245, by Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, would add child care facilities to the 1,000-foot setback for schools.
HB 3959, by Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, would make the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority an independent agency, splitting it from the Oklahoma State Department of Health in July 2021. It would make the director an appointee of the governor and establish a nine-member board.
Dispensaries would be allowed to grind and pre-roll marijuana cigarettes for retail sale under HB 3957, by Fetgatter. Under the current law, only licensed processors can manufacture marijuana cigarettes.
HB 3229, by Echols, would end Oklahoma residency requirements for patient applications, opening up the program to qualified non-state residents. Meanwhile, HB 3956, by Fetgatter, would end current residency requirements for the medical marijuana transporter and testing lab licenses. It also removes a requirement that medical marijuana transport vehicles be equipped with GPS technology.
Fetgatter’s HB 3954 would allow patients from other states with medical marijuana cards to participate in Oklahoma’s program. It prohibits the use of clear plastic baggies or cellophane to be used for the sale of medical marijuana in Oklahoma. It also clarifies that the current 1,000-foot setback for dispensaries from schools should be measured from the nearest property line of the school to the front door of the dispensary.
A pair of bills, HB 3474 and HB 3230, by Fetgatter and Echols, would change the requirements for the proper disposal of medical marijuana and its waste products, including what to do with the cannabis if a medical marijuana company went out of business.
Meanwhile, a couple of bills have already passed the Senate and await action in the House. SB 1296 by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, allows cities and counties to ban medical marijuana smoking and vaping in places where it’s already prohibited to smoke or vape tobacco products.
SB 959, by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, clarifies the law to make sure medical marijuana patients can still have a concealed-carry handgun permit. Dahm said it will make it easier for other states to recognize concealed-carry licenses. It would still be against the law for a medical marijuana patient to carry or use a firearm while under the influence of cannabis.
Oklahoma Watch, at oklahomawatch.org, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that covers public-policy issues facing the state.
The Gayly. 3/5/2020 @ 8:18 a.m. CST.